This is a post in a series, Jesus At the Blackboard, a place to come and share our stories about educational choices in order to broaden the conversation without making parents feel bad about themselves. You can find all of the posts in this series here.
Elissa was one of the first people I thought of when I started this series. She has a unique perspective from a difficult journey she has faced openly and honestly. Her blog was one that I read before I started blogging myself. Please go give her some love.
A journey through home schooling
I made the decision to home school my children before I gave birth. Before I was married, even before I had even finished my college degree in education I knew that my days as a mother would be spent pouring over lessons and other educational activities and other equally nerdy pursuits.
Homeschooling as a concept entered my periphery way back in the 90’s, I was in my last days as a college student when a very special family at my church invited me into their lives first as a babysitter, and eventually sort of adopted me like a stray pet.
They were the type that curled up around a wood stove to do their lessons, all quaint and cozy. The first time I participated in one of their school days I was completely and utterly hooked.
My very ideological 20 year old self had to wonder Why on earth would I use my education degree to wrangle two dozen ornery students in shoes that pinched my feet all day when I could curl up with a few sweet children who I could actually discipline when they became uncooperative? And I could do it in my jammies? That’s a no brainer.
Fast forward 14+ years I am now the mother of 4 children, three biological and one adopted as an older child from Russia. I’ve homeschooled three of my children since day one. From the day their little babbles became intelligible words to the day a few weeks ago when my ten year old learned to count in binary, erasing all doubt in my mind that one day he’ll turn out to be as nerdy as his father.
Just like I dreamed all those years ago, homeschooling has been a melodious sonnet composed by many a lesson cuddled up around a wood burning fire or sprawled in the glorious late morning sunshine, real life teachable moments, and the freedom to pursue the topics that interest us the most.
Nyet pa Russky, a homeschooling lesson in ESL
When it came time to consider schooling options for the 7 year old boy we were planning to adopt, throwing him into the homeschooling mix was a no brainer, a whole language learning environment with children close to him in age (all four of my children are less than 2 years apart age wise), focused on attachment oriented learning. We had the perfect environment to help him learn English and help him feel like he was finally a part of a real family.
Winner, winner chicken dinner.
And you know what happens when something sounds good on paper right? Yeah, homeschooling our little Russky was sort of tragically horrible.
My beautiful dreams of playing vocabulary games together quickly turned into games called “let’s try not to let the little one cause permanent damage to the home or anyone in it.”
We tried to be patient while he learned the house rules. We tried to be firm when he pushed the boundaries, we tried to be understanding when he couldn’t pick up basic educational concepts. We tried really really hard to make it all work, keeping him home longer than any sane family would have.
In March of this year we finally surrendered to the reality that our newest son belonged in a private school for children with severe developmental delays and other special needs. A school with a qualified, loving staff who had way more resources than we did. It was so, so hard for us to surrender to that truth. To not beat ourselves up and feel like quitters. To admit to ourselves that someone else was more qualified for the task than we were.
But with God’s grace we were able to just let it go. I surrendered because the reality of the situation is that my son’s education was not about my need to prove a point. It was not about whether I was capable of homeschooling a difficult child or not. It really, really just wasn’t about me at all.
So most days I still proudly wear my home schooling Mama crown. I proudly admit to reading books to my children that they are perfectly capable of reading by themselves. And while I’m a little sad that not all of my babies call me teacher, I’m grateful that God showed us another way. A perfect way for our child to be educated and cherished for the child of God he truly is.
Elissa Peterson is a homeschooling mama who likes to pretend she has her act together. She writes about raising creatively empowered children and dancing through life with a very special nine year old glued to her hip. You can read more about her special version of crazy on her blog http://dontletlifepassyouby.blogspot.com/